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Two recent articles take a look at the effect of technology on our consumerist society and reach startlingly different conclusions. One laments that we don’t own as much stuff as we used to, while the other talks about how online shopping has created a nation of hoarders. Can both be true, at the same time?
Writing for Bloomberg, Tyler Cowen makes the first argument. He is an economics professor at George Mason University, where he also directs the Mercatus Center, and he admits to worrying about “the erosion of personal ownership and what that will mean for our loyalties to traditional American concepts of capitalism and private property.”
Examples - Books - Book - Cover - Object
Examples are clear, starting with books. When we buy a book in hard or soft cover, it is a physical object we own and can sell. When we buy an ebook for our Kindle or similar device, we don’t own it in the same way. In fact, the argument can easily be made that we don’t own it at all. We actually buy a license to read it, and Amazon has control over the terms of the license. “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider,” the agreement states, adding: “We may change, suspend, or discontinue the Service, in whole or in part, including adding or removing Subscription Content from a Service, at any time without notice.” The analog analogy would be if I buy a book at a bookstore, and the bookstore owner comes to my home and demands it back, without even offering to pay me back. The same applies to other media, of course, such as music or movies, as we transition away from hard copies to streaming or digital files.
Another similar example can be offered easily enough, although it is one most consumers don’t think about....
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